For Love and Honor

In December of 1972, Donald Richie, then film curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote to artist Hollis Frampton and suggested that they organise a retrospective of his work at this most prestigious of museums. To an artist of any standing, this would be a tempting offer; however, Frampton took issue

I see you, my beauty boy

For two months in 1974, as Richard Burton filmed his part in The Klansman, he and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, moved to California with Cassius, just one of Taylor’s many beloved cats. Sadly, the trip confused Cassius somewhat and he soon went missing, never to return. Taylor wrote the following letter some time after his disappearance.

Kiss my ass

In 1970, shortly after being elected Attorney General of Alabama, 29-year-old Bill Baxley reopened the 16th Street Church bombing case — a racially motivated act of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of four African-American girls in 1963 and a fruitless investigation, and which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Baxley’s unwavering commitment to

Why Explore Space?

In 1970, a Zambia-based nun named Sister Mary Jucunda wrote to Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, then-associate director of science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in response to his ongoing research into a piloted mission to Mars. Specifically, she asked how he could suggest spending billions of dollars on such a project at a time when so many children were starving on

Oh Christ, the cook is dead

In February of 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen Gard wrote to Spike Milligan after reading Monty, the third installment of Spike’s memoirs which focused on his life as a soldier in World War II, and asked some questions about the book. Says Stephen: “My letter was written as a fan, but it did ask

Part of this world, part of another

In 1970, when originally offered the lead role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory by director Mel Stuart, the great Gene Wilder accepted on one condition. “When I make my first entrance,” he explained, “I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After

I am very real

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace

It wasn’t a rip off; it was a love in

An inflammatory article in The New York Times provoked the following letter from John Lennon in 1971, defensively penned on a couple of sheets of in-flight stationery as the Beatle crossed the Atlantic. Journalist Craig McGregor’s piece, entitled ‘The Beatles Betrayal,’ was clear in its accusation: that a number of white bands — The Beatles in particular

A library is many things

Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children’s librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of

On bureaucratese and gobbledygook

As a result of his influential stint as chairman of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board in the 1970s, economist Alfred Kahn rightly became known as the “Father of Deregulation.” However, he also made a lasting impression on many due to the wider publication — initially in the Washington Star, and then the Post — of the following internal

I think I no how to make people or animals alive

In June of 1973, spurred on by the recent discovery of a dying bird in his garden, 9-year-old Anthony Hollander wrote to the presenters of the BBC’s much-loved children’s television show, Blue Peter, and asked for assistance in his quest to “make people or animals alive.” Below is his letter, and the encouraging response written by the programme’s

Permission to land

Top-left: A Huey thrown overboard; Top-right: Buang-Ly lands safely; Bottom: A rapturous welcome On April 30th of 1975, with the Vietnam War coming to a close and the U.S. evacuating as many people as possible from South Vietnam in Operation Frequent Wind, crew aboard the USS Midway were surprised to see a small two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird

Regarding your stupid complaint

In November of 1974, an attorney named Dale Cox wrote to his favourite American football club, the Cleveland Browns, and informed them that a number of the team’s fans were regularly throwing paper aeroplanes in the stadium — a potentially “dangerous” activity that could, he warned, cause “serious eye injury” to innocent fans such as himself. His stern letter

I would like to retain ‘fart in your general direction’

In August of 1974, eight months prior to its cinema release, a preview screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail—a painfully funny parody of the legend of King Arthur and the Python team’s second feature film—was attended by a member of the British Board of Film Classification, Tony Kerpel, who was there to offer

The Tiger Oil Memos

From the offices of the now-defunct but at one time Houston-based Tiger Oil Company come a batch of curiously entertaining memos, all sent by the firm’s irascible, tactless, and undeniably amusing CEO, Edward “Tiger Mike” Davis, to his staff. Tiger Mike’s management style was no secret within the industry; however, in the early-2000s, 25 years

To all aspiring animators

In 1973, an aspiring young animator named Will Finn wrote a lengthy piece of fan mail to one of his idols, Disney legend Ward Kimball (pictured above), and Kimball responded with the wonderful letter below — an endearingly enthusiastic reply filled with friendly, sage advice. Even 15-year-old Will’s swipe at Hanna Barbera was dealt with expertly

Most of you steal your software

On February 3rd of 1976, almost 10 years before unveiling Windows 1.0, an irate young Bill Gates wrote the following open letter in response to piracy of Altair BASIC, a piece of software Gates had produced with Paul Allen and Monte Davidoff, and which was essentially the first such release from Microsoft (then named Micro-Soft). The letter was published

I can and will do more good as a Federal Agent at Large

Elvis Presley was an avid collector of police badges and the owner of dozens from departments and agencies the length and breadth of the United States. But, there was one badge in particular that he was desperate to get his hands on—one which had, for a long time, proven elusive: a badge from the Bureau